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Healthy HMOs Require 'Determined Vigilance'

June 22, 2002

It is not my place to question whether the two Kaiser Permanente executives, Dick Pettingill and Oliver Goldsmith, can speak for the many doctors employed by the HMO. However, I do take exception to their effort to include in their "we" all of the registered nurses who deliver care to patients in the system's facilities (letter, June 15). The criticisms leveled at Kaiser by health-care activist Jamie Court ("HMOs Stalk Patients' Rights," Commentary, June 10), far from "exist[ing] only in his mind" (and those of lawyers), are shared by many nurses and other health-care providers and certainly are in tune with the many and frequent complaints from patients.

The California Nurses Assn., which represents 10,000 Kaiser RNs, shares many of the concerns voiced by Court and other critics. We deplore Kaiser officials' attacks on the new Department of Managed Health Care. We are also outraged by the revelation that Kaiser was paying bonuses to Advice Line clerks to steer patients away from appointments and referrals. The same goes for Kaiser continuing to defend its compulsory arbitration system that undermines the patient's ability to seek legal redress of grievances.

The issue here is not an attempt by the DMHC "to regulate physicians and how they operate their medical practices"; it is the responsibility of one of the nation's largest HMOs to the patients it covers and for accountability to the public. There is enough in Kaiser's recent history to warrant continued vigilance.

Deborah Burger RN

Vice President

California Nurses Assn.

Oakland

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